Poems by Audrey Chin 2018

Author of 5 books, AUDREY CHIN is a Singapore based writer and 2017 Fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program whose work explores the intersections of faith, gender, culture and politics. She has been nominated once for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and shortlisted thrice for the Singapore Literature Prize. In 2016, she came out as a praying woman with her anthology of meditations, When Heart Meets Spirit. In the same year, her story Widow of Nain won the Inaugural Asian Women Writers’ Festival Short Story Prize.

Tiferet Day 23


where have we come from?

can’t you see we’re from nowhere?
isn’t it obvious, we belong to no one?
for who leaves who has something to stay for?
for who stays when no hope is left?

how is it we have come here?

can our reasons be told in less than a life?
can our silence contain the horrors?

where do we shelter?

do stones remember they once were houses?
can a road go home when there is no road?
do the tides have their own songs?
how do we move on?

Tiferet Day 22

Prose poem

She shoots blanks… Sends us pictures so white, we shudder. So much snow… Such people… There is her husband – All gleaming teeth. Her children – the black of their hair hidden inside white hoods. Little wolves! They romp on the lake in front of her house, little splatters, melting on an expanse of ice. “A beautiful day, the sky unbelievably blue, and snowy and cold at the same time,” she writes under the image. And then it is mid-summer. And she sends us her children again, their black eyes glinting behind the spun whites of sugar candy. Behind them, her hand – caught in a bear’s paw, her husband’s. “Celebrating white nights,” she announces.

They celebrated in the old days too, when the emperors sent their daughters to wed barbarians. See the scroll paintings telling all – the processions of pipers – the hordes of horses – the emptied treasuries of dowry. And there hidden by her attendants – the princess on her palanquin, behind her veils. A no-face princess we don’t see crying.

Tiferet Day 21


beyond the grid of window screen
time-marked by dragonfly husks
from the summer past
the world is still

the river a black mirror
to a black sky
the poplars standing guard
armoured silver by the street lights
your footprints coming home
in the snow

A drowning

today I’ll step out
to breath fresh water

listen it in from behind my ears
like a gold fish
and drain the music from it
like how
I let hymns
seep into my marrow
and deep
so very deep

today I’ll breath in water
spin out bubbles
swirl them towards light
and so far

today I’ll close my eyes
and learn how to sleep
in the deep
the so very deep

20 alphabets and 3 characters

twenty alphabets and three characters

audrey – the abbess of ely
marie – a virgin
noble strength beside a sea of bitterness
慧 wei – the intelligence of a well-ordered heart
麗li – the beauty of deer moving in pairs
陳 chin – a city in the east

a mish-mashed name
witness to
the possibilities
of a mish-mashed world

Senses – 7 dwarf wishes plus 1

give us pretty not sour
beauty tart as envy
on the tongue

give us tumbled not sharp
splintering of mirror
in the heart

give us a deer panting
a girl running
give us ebony not wing of crow

give us cream of white not ice

give us roses blooming from snow

take back that choke of apple

give back our girl

Random line from random book

“And that’s another problem with your generation! You’re always mysteriously dying! In my day, we remained alive, and that’s the way we liked it.”
On mosquitoes and synthetic biology – Soonish: 10 Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything, by Kelly and Azch Weinersmith

It used to be
slap / slap / slap
every night a massacre
and still always one left
whining in the dark
too quick to kill

what’s needed
something to subvert
those genes
intent on multiplication
one times one becoming

so geckos hunt in vain
chk / chk / chk
every night a famine
their prey taken
by a death wish
or so it’ll seem


dogged sirius sets

at eleven
and mercury rises at six

leaving the night between

for sleep


my lover

keeping watch

jealous I sleep so easy

wondering if I’m dreaming of him

watching me




to follow a dream wraith

hitch a ride on a night mare

into domains

locked against him



3 haiku for Dalat

On the city steps –
day still unboxed, a boy sleeps
wrapped up in cold dreams.

In an upstairs room –
salt and silk, sweet flesh and tears
pounds sold by the hour.

By the lake’s edge
mimosa folded tight, hope
soon waking to light.


if you bow to all the gods
theirs and ours

if you’re moved to give thanks
by the work of men’s hands
and hold all days sacred
whether labouring or at rest

if you call yourself child
of every father and mother
and the enemy
your sister and brother

then who are you for?

be with us or against
stand inside or aside
cast your lot as you should
be cast out


I don’t dread
this vagabond life

of blood and curses

It’s the road back

and home without you
I can’t face


Air and water, earth and sky-fire
Nature I can’t buy
Treasure I can’t hire

Implanted inside this clockwork
City that never runs to ground
I can only count the hands circling, be a tally clerk

Praying, paying forward my hours
And watching the digits on my time-clock
Turning and turning, how i imagine sunflowers

In their season, wait for the light to

Open up their faces, and tilt them up to sky
Naked and unclouded, a never-ending blue

A song of the old country

in the old country

sông is a river
past memories

song sòng sóng
a song sung blue
half-tone slides
shifting vowels
only we

song without accent – the windowblinds in the family house
sòng in a falling voice –a straight-talking man cut down
sóng with surprise – the waves that rose over us
sống – ố we didn’t die!
sổng – we escaped! we ran! we survived!

sống is a new life
sồng is brown
the colour of a monk’s robes
song is the past
done with
the window blinds pulled shut

Before Lunch (2 cooks and the writer within)

at the last hour                           /  before the mid-day meal
a decision – she’s been             / cutting and slicing
at a lie, and for what?               / white rice
a living?                                        / a simple three veg and a meat
not                                                / a meal
allowing for dreams                   / graced and beautiful
she tears up the words             /  the minutes
gifts                                              /  her sold hours
her life                                         /  a dedication
to the story                                 / a work of art


strut off!

you barnyard brigand
you crow-master of chaos

we don’t need  you to lay eggs



Glosa –

Body, my house

my horse, my hound

what shall I do

when you are fallen

  • May Swenson

After they burnt the village

I had only the sky
as my country, and my

body, my house

 After they burnt the village
I took to wandering

hunger and anger

my horse, my hound

After they burnt the village
I asked myself
how shall I live?

what shall I do?

After they burnt the village
I picked up a gun

I’ll stop shooting only

when you’re fallen

Something new

the new man
as pale as death

offered us

  • a god

impaled on crossed twigs
white as a cave worm

rising like a cicada

singing from the dead earth

  • a story

we swallowed
as unthinking as babes
guzzling new life

Bouquet in the sand

the bridesmaids were ticked
no bouquet toss I said
but later
when it was just the two of us
we did go out on the sand
and I threw the flowers over his head
and into the waves

not that she needed bud roses
where she’d gone
but he was hers
before I came and everything changed
and she walked into the waves
she ought to have them I said
and he’d agreed

as if forgiveness can be earned
with a bunch of flowers
we found them in the morning
tossed back on the sand


the lake frozen to stillness
the minnows whispering their secrets
bubbles under the ice


cut through her purpled body
with your scalpels
with two ave marias
              as in holy mother
as in da ma de[i]
profanity and blessing 
the only way
you can share
her one breath before
the silence after
              the flame of your life
her glaring vacancy

a husband a wife 
a marriage bed
a beating
his desperation
her whimpering
him done
her dead
you know all that

it’s recent
make a slight right down her torso
it’s recent
you can know more
how she struggled
if he spilled seed

what you can’t know
if the angels heard her
If the clouds parted
if she whispered ave maria
if she regained her self

Why am I Moving?

for whatever reason
a fly’s wings
will part air
two hundred times a second
even when hovering
a thing flies do
we all have our reasons
to keep on moving
is an unexamined life
worth living?

This is the Temporary Gym

this is the temporary gym
ticky-tack lockers that won’t unlock
machines and classes pushed against each other
too close for comfort

this is yoga rest and relax
on concrete outside in the heat
the mosquitoes and the flies buzzing
ready to feast

this is fight club
scheduled straight after
one woman and one instructor swiping at shadows
and the flies

still not ready to die
on concrete
in the heat


we face off

my north-west / your south-east

your dawn / my dusk

your noon / my midnight

your spring / my autumn

who is Ross McKie / Phillip Marley?

what does he mean by an acceptable time?

If we say April – what do we see

a thousand blossoms budding or the rust of fallen leaves?

where is common ground?

Dream sequence

something falls loose
like bone (from a socket)
like pearls ——- off —– a —– string
everything re-
turning to the sea
and nothing I can do about it as I wait
out of sorts and my neck bare
at the church

the bridegroom missed his flight. I’m marrying
a rooster-substitute. Running away
to retake my SAT’s. Applying for a grant
from A-Star. Doing star-jumps
by the sea

my Ph.D too heavy
for all this leaping through h00000ps

****** starfish
\\\ bones
and the waves
washing everything away


let go let go let go

what’s over is over
is done

like that candle
swaying in the last flicker of

like a sigh

leaving leaving leaving

Tiferet Day 25

sour fruit tree
wild boys won’t
blue birds won’t

who plucks you


no one cooks
sour fish stew
sambal shrimp

no one eats
grandma food
faded but
still too tart

Tiferet Day 26

Ending in a swerve

more than two hams
are hogging media

this week

the french and american
kissing up a nuclear storm

the two Koreans
holding hands
and the great dragon and the yogi

fighting to give way

as if anyone of them

doesn’t have a dagger
an offering of tainted ginseng
a doctored handkerchief
caviar gone off
a recording device


inside those Nehru jackets and Mao collars
in their elevator shoes and toupees
up the you know whats

of their trophy wives

and then treachery
in that mini multi second

the cameras


Tiferet Day 27

a tribute to those girls who dared to speak out and run – nouns only and then long lines











she set out towards the sea – beautiful and bold
armed with birthday blessings, health and happiness and fire

in her heart and on her skin a flame
the sun turning above her like a gyre

they say this is how martyrs start – foolish and sure

blinded by the light of mission, led on unheeding through muck and mire
till their feet are sucked down ankle deep
the seagulls calling overhead like town criers

she stopped where we knew she’d end – spent

washed up fly-blown and bloating, wrists and ankles bound with wire

sea salted sand grated daylight bleached

the sand-flies gathering like vultures for hire

Tiferet Day 28

an ode after Pindar Olympia 11

for the poet of Pandan Valley Sleeping-In on a Saturday (April 2018)

there is a time when a women’s need
for air-conditioning is greatest

and a time for black-outs in the room
to simulate the comforting blanket of night.

but when anyone has overcome
through sheer sleepiness,

then let this whispered lullaby accompany

even more lay-ins,

and mark undying hope for even greater resistance
against those wretched morning folks.

this commendation is dedicated to late risers, without irony.

Still although my keyboard yearns to praise such hard-won slumber;

it is as with so much else, by the gift of pharmacy, ever-useful Silenor,

that a woman can lie abed without a thought

for the quotidian of her day’s demands.

For the present, obviously, O poet of the Pandan Valley Residence,

For the sake of your determined slumber, let us quietly hum

this little tune, a soothing second to the melody in your dreams, while

we give thanks for the fore bearance of the neighbours, who do not condemn

such sloths as you and indeed, join in this our celebration.

And so we all promise that we shall all strive for an extra ten minutes,

even two hours, intervals as are convenient to anyone. And in that time

and in a suitable space, engage in a slumber so deep, we will emerge,

well slept and more rested than ever. For sleep is needed by all living things.

And we humans and beasts are not apart from nature.

Tiferet Day 29

a conversation

its awfully whooshy – she says

immensely ginormouse – he says

it’s the sea – I tell them

the sea – they echo

where fishes live – I say

lots of fishes – she agrees

lemme see – he says, pushing

and then – I don’t see no fish


how he is

they’re underneath – I explain

adding –in the deep


they’ll believe

she asks – and will Goldie be happy there?

and god forgive me

I say – yes

I say – she’ll have lots of friends

he asks – as many as in playgroup?

adding – a gazillion?

even if he doesn’t know

10 from 20

and I say – yes

and I pray he’ll never stick his head down there to count

the difference

and I pray she’ll never dip her finger in and lick the salt

goldfish can’t swim in

living or dead

and I pray – god, let’s be done with

before my memories wash up
in waves I can’t stop
heaving as in those first months
I carried them

seasick towards the horizon

heaving as she tilts the fishbowl over

and they say – bye bye

and tell me

– it’s goldfish heaven

– down there

Tiferet Day 30

fare well

there are no farewells

for those taken

by flood

by fire

for those vanished

on a nameless night

for those who dreamed away in flight

from their feathered beds

or were surprised by shock

as their hands were cut off mid-thought

in the middle of mid-morning


they must do the best they can

fare well is only for those of us

whose lives go on

dotting the lines _ or not as the case may be

turning the pages

closing the books

may you fare well

as you move on

move around

and be brought around


by the great world